Archive | December, 2013

A most unusual Christmas

27 Dec
Christmas Eve in Arequipa

Christmas Eve in Arequipa. Click for more.

This was our first Christmas in the southern hemisphere, and a new hemisphere calls for new traditions. On Christmas Eve (which, as at home, has plenty of traffic), I walked downtown with the kids to enjoy discount frappuccinos at Cafe Valenzuela. On the way home, we picked up pollo a la brasa (charcoal-roasted chicken) and fries for about $10. After dinner at home, we enjoyed a Google Hangout with my family in Kentucky then watched an adventure movie on our “poor man’s home theatre” (my PC monitor and speakers along with Timothy’s Nexus 7 and Chromecast, which performed flawlessly). After the movie, we set up the camera on the roof to record not Santa, but the city-wide fireworks that begin in earnest around 11:30pm and continue until well past midnight. What a blast! See my G+ page for the video.

On Christmas Day, we opened presents at our leisure (yes, really, our kids are older now), had a Google Hangout with Vicki’s family and our two oldest kids in Iowa, then made our way to the Peats house, where it was sunny and 66 degrees. We enjoyed a fine lunch complete with Christmas pudding and stayed most of the day conversing over such as esoteric topics as biblical missions and Steve’s pyromania….

Yesterday we had the Jeyachandrans over for a meal. David J and I are working on some ideas for an intensive summer programming course so we talked a bit of work. Our boys got new fronton paddles for Christmas (kind of like racquetball) so we headed off to the park with all the kids, new paddles, and jump ropes. We had a nice time on a sunny afternoon. Later, I got an elbow in the ribs while playing fronton, which will slow me down for a day or two and brought back memories of “soccer mom” Vicki catching it during Pilgrim League. Thankfully, I’m over my cold and my lungs are otherwise doing well again. After dinner we watched Man of Steel with the family, in which the bad guys induce earthquakes, among other things. The movie is unsettling and we were having a bit of trouble getting to sleep, when sure enough, a tremor hit and shook us up a bit. Still getting used to life near the Pacific Ring of Fire.

Today we took advantage of our time off school to try ceviche with the kids at Mare’s, which friends had recently recommended. It’s better to eat ceviche at lunch, we are told, because the fish is fresher that way. It was just as good as the ceviche I tried last week in Lima. Daniel, Anna, and Vicki were more adventurous than I. They all tried the mini-squids as well as the fish. Timothy lost his appetite altogether, poor guy. Ceviche is funny stuff. The spicy lemon sauce is great, but fills you up very quickly.

We miss our family, but we are very grateful for new local friends and fun activities here, too. Merry Christmas!

A mission from God

25 Dec

About 2,000 years ago, God the Father sent His Son on a mission. He left His heavenly home, with all of its comforts, family, and glory, for the most backward place in the universe: Earth. Most everyone He met was petty, small-minded, slow to understand, faithless. All were sinful and offensive to His holy character. Many, believing themselves to be experts in morality, were both ignorant and self-righteous. Some were downright hostile. For all these types of people, while they were yet enemies (Rom. 5:8), He sacrificed His own life, that He might save a people for Himself and bring them into fellowship with God.

I am one of those people. And Jesus Christ, having returned to His heavenly home, is still about His mission. Incredibly, He now carries it on through people like you and me:

As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world.

John 17:18 ESV

Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

2 Cor 5:20-21 ESV

As I close our first Christmas Day away from home, I am reminded that Christmas represents the humble beginning of the most outrageous rescue mission in the history of the universe. A mission in which God Himself put literal “skin in the game” to save not His friends, but His enemies, and to call them friends and brothers. Praise Him! Praise Him! Jesus, our blessed Redeemer.

A restful week

23 Dec

I flew back to Arequipa on Friday with a case of books to give away and a few Christmas presents which, thankfully, did not incur extra baggage fees. All went smoothly except the taxi ride from Miraflores to the Lima airport, which is always the most tedious part of the journey and takes almost as long as the flight to Arequipa. I’ve had more asthma the last few days due to picking up a mild cold in Lima. This has made me realize that I haven’t yet made adequate preparations for an asthma emergency here (as in, who you gonna’ call and where you gonna’ go?). I did not bring my nebulizer from the States; however, a local missionary doctor has given me plenty of prednisone which I can use in lieu of the nebulizer to keep things under control. Thankfully, as hoped, I’ve had almost no asthma since we’ve been here. This has been a huge blessing.

I really enjoyed my week in Lima. I was staying in a comfortable hotel in the nice part of town thanks to the generosity of the conference at which I spoke, so I made a point to walk the 14 blocks to the oceanfront daily. Following my talks, I had only one or two appointments each day. I visited the UNI computing research program, picked up my paperwork from INTERPOL, visited a software company where I will likely do some teaching, and met a like-minded pastor from whom I bought some books. This left several hours a day for reading, writing, and shopping for a few items we can’t get in Arequipa. I am really thankful for this time and wish that Vicki and the kids could have enjoyed it with me instead of slaving over their language school homework… Although I missed Vicki and the kids, it’s the most relaxed i can remember being in a long time.

I was hoping to pick up my visa and residence card in Lima but was not able to. According to the Web site, the visa has been approved by the director, which is wonderful news, but is lacking one step. I don’t know what it is so I will have to wait for final approval or visit the office in Arequipa again. Fortunately for Vicki, this guarantees that I will accompany her to Lima for her INTERPOL visit.

We have a slew of Google Hangouts lined up for this week with friends and family who are foolishly braving subzero temperatures to celebrate Christmas without us when they could have been enjoying Arequipa’s sunny and 70 degree weather. But we are all together in spirit. And Facebook. And Google Plus. I am still amazed at just how well video calls can transport us to Mom & Dad’s living room on another continent.

Vicki is up very late tonight making pie crust while I write. We met with the math teacher at the nearby school today and arranged summer classes to help prepare the kids for the school year starting in March. Math is a language all its own and can be understood independently of spoken language; still, I don’t envy our kids having to learn new concepts in the language of mathematics in Spanish. Just learning to pronounce numbers like 347.229,00 is a chore, especially since they often reverse the decimal point and commas here. I’m sure there are some prayer requests in here somewhere.

Well, that was quick (part 2)

18 Dec

A few weeks ago, I mentioned that I met some Seventh-Day Adventist friends. About the same time, a friend in the States recommended the book Sabbath in Christ by Dale Ratzlaff, who, it turns out, is a former Seventh-Day Adventist pastor and is now a Reformed evangelical. As the timing of the two events was very close, I was delighted to purchase Sabbath in Christ in Kindle format and have now finished the book. I found it to be the clearest, most comprehensive, and Christ-exalting material I have ever read on the subject of the sabbath (and the covenants, generally) and cannot recommend the book highly enough. The book is gracious to every perspective such that even if you disagree with parts of his theology, I think you will find it very carefully reasoned and his gospel clarity heart-warming. Even though many of the ideas in the book were not new to me, I found myself rejoicing anew in the gospel, sharpening my thinking, seeing new parallels and contrasts in Scripture that I had never before noticed, and generally having a good time in the Word while reading 🙂

Prior to reading Sabbath in Christ, I read one of Dale’s other books, Truth Led Me Out, which is the story of how he gradually gained clarity regarding God’s free and sovereign grace in salvation, the finished work of Christ on the cross, and the righteousness of Christ which is imputed to believers. Chapter 5, entitled Gospel Clarity, is a brilliant and exhilarating exposition of the first chapters of Romans and is worth the price of the book. As he gained clarity on these topics, he realized that he could no longer function within the Seventh-Day Adventists, although he clearly believes that many within know the Truth but are afraid to speak out. I found his insights both fascinating and painfully familiar as I identified with his process of self-questioning, the tendency of church organizations to conserve cherished creeds above and beyond Scripture, and sadly, the ultimate loss of friends and fellowship over doctrinal issues.

But back to Peru, I was tickled to discover that Sabbath in Christ is available in Spanish. The Seventh-Day Adventists have been very successful in Latin America and as such, hundreds of thousands are held captive by faulty teaching on the Mosaic Law (including dietary restrictions) and live in fear of leaving the SDA because they believe that their organization is the only true church as they alone observe the seventh day sabbath. Curiously, the Spanish language itself lends itself to their cause as the word for the seventh day of the week is sábado. When I contacted Dale, he put me in touch with a Peruvian connection in Florida, who in turn connected me with Pastor Lopez in Lima (where I am this week!) who has 1,000 copies of the book on hand! I was able to purchase 20 copies of the paperback Sábado en Cristo to take back to Arequipa with me and have already given the first away to the hotel bellman whom I observed reading his Bible during a quiet time last night. I had a short but sweet meeting with Pastor Lopez, who graciously drove across town to meet me, and was excited to learn that they are having a conference in July to celebrate the five solas of the Reformation. I have also offered to help Dale put Sábado en Cristo into Kindle format to make it more discoverable online.

With every passing week, I understand more of why I’m here.

Conference update

17 Dec
Closing fun and games at GBG Lima

Closing fun and games at GBG Lima

My talks at the Google Business Group and Google Developer Group in Lima went very well. About 1,400 people attended the two events, although not all came to my talks 🙂 I gave one in Spanish as I had done in Juliaca and the other in English because the technical subject matter was more complex. Someone offered to interpret, but the audience preferred English. Unless you have simulcast equipment, an “interrupter” just slows down the presentation too much and most technical students can understand spoken English.

As in Juliaca, my audience was really appreciative of my efforts, laughed at all my jokes, and took a LOT of photos afterward. I felt like a celebrity. It’s kind of mind-boggling, actually. I also made many good connections with students and software developers who are eager to work with me as I get the software business rolling. This is important as good developers are really hard to find here.

As my Spanish improves, I believe I will have great opportunities to use my gift of writing to share my faith with these groups. I need great wisdom as to how to structure business activities in such a way as to produce income but at the same time allow time and flexibility for writing and personal ministry.

I’m still waiting to hear from immigration regarding my work visa, but I plan to go to INTERPOL tomorrow morning to pick up the statement of clean record I will need later in the visa process.

I am thinking about going parachuting today along the coast…. the updraft along the cliffs of Lima makes for spectacular “surfing” in the air (and hopefully not the water…).

Messy fingers

13 Dec

Upon arrival in Lima last night, I double checked my list of items needed for my visit to INTERPOL this morning. Besides the immigration status page from my visa application, passport photos, and copy of my passport and last entry stamp, a manilla envelope of “official size” is required. I was hoping to save money and use an envelope I had gotten for free from the accountant, but thought maybe I should make sure I had the “official size” so I ventured out on foot last night, found the nearby Tai Loy store for office supplies, and inquired about it. They did not not know what “official” size was, but they guessed it was probably A4, which is the paper size here similar to US letter (never before do I recall being conscious of what paper size I was using). Unfortunately, the A4 manilla envelopes come in packages of 50, and I hesitated to spend the S/.7.55 ($2.72) to buy the whole package. Then I considered that it’s only a fraction of the taxi fare to INTERPOL and back and it would be pretty stupid to get there and not have the right envelope on account of trying to save $3.

I liked the driver who picked me up at the airport last night, so I arranged with him to take me to INTERPOL this morning. I arrived about 10 minutes before opening (8am) and found myself #8 in queue. All the immigration lawyers (and assistants) arrive first in suits and hold places for their clients. It might be worth it to have someone who knows the system, but it would have saved me no more than 20 minutes this morning. Before I sat down to wait, the very helpful officer asked whether I had with me my photos (because their camera is broken) and the check to the United States Treasury for my FBI background check. Yes, I told her. When it was my turn to present my papers, she asked for my manilla envelope and I presented the smaller one. Nope, it must be bigger. Ah, no problem, I said, and opened the package of the A4 envelopes which I was still hoping I might return to Tai Loy. In that instant I was glad that I had denied my “penny wise and pound foolish” urge to save $3 on envelopes.

Everything went smoothly. I filled out the solicitation card which I hadn’t been able to find online, but there was plenty of time to fill it out there and thankfully I didn’t have to run out and copy their form as I’ve had to do at Immigration in Arequipa. Then they checked my teeth (part of INTERPOL’s mission is identifying bodies after disasters, as the pictures of airplane wreckage in the office clearly show) and took all ten fingerprints TWICE–once for them and once for the FBI.

The driver took me back to the hotel and I mailed the FBI request from the nearby SERPOST office. INTERPOL told me that my certification will be ready Wednesday, so I will be able to pick it up before heading back to Arequipa. After my work visa is approved, I can pick up my residence card from Immigration in Lima. It would be really great if my visa were approved by next Wed so I could go to Immigration on Thu or Fri before I return to Arequipa. Otherwise I’ll have to make another trip. After I receive my visa, we start the process all over again for Vicki and the kids.

I was a bit nervous about this visit. I am thankful to the Lord that it went smoothly and very thankful that the conference where I am speaking has paid all my travel expenses so it didn’t cost much at all to get this step taken care of.

Lima, here I come

12 Dec

This afternoon I’m headed to Lima to speak at a software development conference, meet with various companies, and meet with a pastor regarding some Spanish books I want to purchase (more on this later). In addition, I will go to INTERPOL so they can verify that I am not an internationally wanted criminal, which is the last step to obtaining my visa. Please pray for safe and smooth travels, wisdom in meetings, ability to speak, and that I will be able to pick up my residence card next week as hoped.

Also, as we approach this Christmas season away from home, please lift up Vicki and the kids (both here and in the US). It is hard for us all to be away. Our family is supposed to give a short presentation at the language school this Friday on our Christmas traditions. I will not be here to assist, and thinking about our traditions isn’t exactly helping Vicki just now.